The Stressful Workplace
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The World’s Way or God’s Way 2
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
There’s a picture of a man who bought Maxwell’s Rolls [Royce]. And he says he’s going to sell it again, because he can’t get rid of the cigar smoke out of it. And Maxwell, you remember, was the millionaire who was very successful in England, and then bought an American newspaper, and then, you remember, disappeared off his yacht. And then his sons, of course, are in bankruptcy, because the whole Maxwell financial empire has collapsed. And we suspect that Maxwell in fact, threw himself off his yacht and committed suicide. Although, I suppose, that’s still open.
That’s what happens when you try to do what God has given man to do — when you try to do it by your own power. Now, I agree with you, not every businessman has committed suicide, who has tried to obey God’s command by their own power. But Maxwell is just an outstanding example. And what is God’s command? Oh, the command that he gave to all of us: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.” That’s the command.
And the way we do that is through work. That’s the way all people do it. And they may not do it in order to obey God, but they’re certainly trying to subdue the earth. They’re trying to subdue it to their own will or their own purposes. And men like Maxwell are doing the same. They’re trying to maneuver all the financial resources, and all the human beings that work for them to fulfill their purpose in this world. And their purpose is usually of course, their own success and their own prosperity.
But wherever you try to fulfill God’s command to subdue the world by your own power, you end up in some variation of Maxwell’s particular tragedy. It may be Her Jang [a cloisonné manufacturer] in Taiwan, where you work hard, hard, hard to get some money for your children. But your whole life is just spent as a kind of slave to get the money. And you do have fun buying the bottle of whiskey and taking it home and setting it up in your living room. And you do fish a little in your spare time. But most of your life is work, work, slog, slog in order to get the money, so that you can leave something to the children.
So whether it’s Maxwell doing that or Her Jang doing that, or — we are surrounded with it here in the West. We are surrounded with the Boiski’s [neighbors in the village]; we are surrounded with the Milkins [neighbors in the village]. We’re surrounded with the men who work like slaves to try to bring the world into order, so that at least they will be able to do what they want to do.
Now, when you do work by your own power, for your own purpose, you end up in variations of Maxwell’s tragedy. You end up in some way a slave of the very earth you’re trying to subdue.
And of course, the Father knew that that’s what would happen, that if we began to try to subdue the earth by our own power and for our own purposes, and make it our servant, we would in fact end up as its slaves. And so it’s very difficult to find business people or work people who do their work, for themselves, to make the world serve them, and they do not in fact end up its slave in some way. Most of us do it through never, never getting the security that we hoped for. And in some way that’s true. The Rockefeller who says, “What more do you want?” And answers, “Just one more million,” in a way he’s in this position of many, many millionaires who never are secure. They never feel secure.
I don’t know if you’ve read some of the interviews with successful people, like people who own the Body Shop, or people who own the huge empires like Merrick, but they never feel secure. Even when it comes to the very end of their life like Hughes [Howard Hughes, 1905-1976], they never have felt secure. They always feel, “No, it could all fall away at any moment.” So it seems even if you amass more of the world’s resources around you than anybody else has, you still have that sense of insecurity deep down. And that’s what happens when you try to subdue the world by your own power, for your own purposes. You’ll always end up in variations of that.
It may be just my dad and my mum who didn’t have anything like that kind of money, or your dad and mum who may have a little more than my dad and mum had. But it doesn’t matter; you never somehow feel that what you have put away, plus Medicare, will really meet all the needs that you’ll have. And so everybody who works by their own power to make the world serve themselves and their own security ends up in that position. They actually end up a slave of the very thing that they’re trying to make their servant.
Now, it’s very easy for us to fall into the same thing. It’s very easy for us to fall into the same pattern where we can say, “Yeah, yeah, well they work and we work, too. Of course, we give our money to the missions, or we give our money to putting radio into China, or putting radio into Eastern Europe. But we work the same way. Yeah, yeah. Ah, to tell the truth, I don’t know what the difference is, except that we all live together, and we worship together, and we love each other. But other than that, I mean, we’re selling apples; they’re selling apples. We’re selling jewelry; they’re selling jewelry. We’re making jewelry; they’re making jewelry. I don’t see much difference. And we’re all kind of trying to subdue the world in some way.”
And I think many of us are in that spot. I really do. I think many of us, even here in this room, are in that kind of position. “I mean, I really wish I could explain it. It’s a great thing I’m all for it. Christian Corps is good, but I don’t know exactly what Pauline does here that she wouldn’t do if she weren’t working for an ordinary company in Scotland. And to tell you the truth, when I pick up the fruit at Covent Garden [wholesale market in London], I don’t see what I’m doing that the other guys aren’t doing. We’re wheeling the same two-wheel carts; we’re driving off in the same kind of vehicles; we’re taking them to the same stores; we’re serving the same kind of people. I don’t see the difference. And when I think of Ada working, shipping out the jewelry, there are lots of people shipping out jewelry just like that. And they may just love the jewelry as much as she does; and they may be as kind as she is; and they may really have as many friends; and they may even go to church and worship. I don’t see really what we’re doing that is different.” And I think often we’re in that spot. And I think because of that, often we fall into the same kind of slavery that the other people fall into, because we’re not clear in our minds what the difference is.
Of course, there’s a vast difference. When God said to us, “I want you to be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it,” he knew that he was not just telling us to take a piece of neutral earth and bring it into order. He knew that. Jesus, himself said, “Look, the prince, the ruler of this world is coming.” And he was not talking about his Father. He said, “The ruler of this world is coming, but he has no part in me.” And he was speaking of Satan. And the Father knew that the ‘prince of this world’ is someone who has rebelled against him. It is Satan, himself.
And Satan has this world organized under him. And you can look at if you want to. It’s in Ephesians 6:12. “For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” And those are Satan’s first bank of slaves. They’re
principalities and powers. They’re world rulers of this present darkness. They’re spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. And when God said, “Go and subdue the world,” he meant that world.
He knew that it was not just the earth, and the rocks, and the metal, and the jewelry, and the enamel, but that behind that this whole world there were principalities and powers, there were spiritual powers of darkness that we could not see. And those powers are subtle, and clever. And they have one desire, and that is to subdue us and to bring us under their control, and to make us serve them and to make us like them. And God knew that, that when he sent us into this world it was to subdue that world.
And so our dear brothers and sisters, our dads and our mums, the ones who don’t even know Jesus, they think, “Oh, we’re just dealing with an earth here; we’re just trying to bring it into order.” And they don’t understand why they end up in greed, and in anger, and irritability, and worry, and anxiety, and why they end up fighting with each other and squabbling with each other, and why they end up feeling, “There’s only one way to win in this world, and that’s to look after yourself, and lie to whoever you have to, and hurt whoever you have to, and walk over whoever you have to in order to keep yourself up.”
And they don’t understand why they end up in that position. They don’t understand why people end up fighting against each other in business. They don’t understand that. They don’t understand why they end up saying, “Oh yeah, you be honest. Be honest as long as you can, but there comes a time when you can’t be honest, when you have to lie. And that’s the only way to carry on business.” They don’t understand why that is so. They don’t understand why, as sales people, they have to live in strain, and stress, and worry that their sales aren’t as good as they were last year. They don’t understand why they end up coming under pressure to get shipments out, and to do this, and to do that. They don’t understand that.
But the reason is, there are spiritual powers all around them that are bent on only one thing: bringing them into likeness to themselves, making them a squabbling, worrying, anxious group of selfish, petty people. And Satan knows that wherever he touched the world, to bring it under our own control, by our own power, he has power over us, and we end up being slaves. And that’s why it was, you remember, one of the English poets who said, “In headaches and in worry, vaguely life leaks away.” “In headaches and in worry vaguely life leaks away.”
And if you talk to any British person almost, you’ll find sure… And why do they like their cups of tea and their breaks in the morning? Because, they hate work. They think work is terrible. Work has a terrible reputation with them. “Work? Work? It’s the dull thing. To think work, is stupid. Work is not what we should do.” And so to them misery is having to work for a living. And happiness, they think is, if they never have to work. But the tragedy is, even those of us — as in Asia — who like to work and who know nothing but work, we work like robots. We work like robots. We just work, work, work. We get almost joy out of the activity but not out of — not enjoyment, not the kind of enjoyment we get out of fishing. In fishing, we enjoy the fishing; we enjoy it. But in the work, we just enjoy getting the work done. Not many of us enjoy actually the delight of putting the enamel in just like that and seeing the result. Not too many of us. And so you come into slavery when you try to do it on your own.
What can you do now? Well, realize that God knew that we could never beat sin. We cannot beat sin. You cannot beat sin. Satan can out think you; he can deceive you; he can always bewilder you. He
can always overcome you. He can always think around where your mind has gone; he can think around behind it again and whip it around to his own wishes. You cannot overcome Satan — you yourself, cannot. We are little human beings; we are not angelic beings; we are little human beings. You cannot overcome Satan. He will let you think you can overcome him. That’s why he allows — it doesn’t matter, Buddhists, Muslims. It doesn’t matter who they are. He will take Spurgeons [a charitable organization] here in England. He will take even good religious people who don’t love Jesus, and he will let them all do remarkable things.
I remember my dad; he had Erysipelas [bacterial infection on the skin]. I don’t know what it is, but I know he had it, and it was some kind of rash on the hands. It was before we knew Jesus. And he had it, and it would come out. And he couldn’t get clear. And he couldn’t get clear of it until a friend of his said, “Ah, I know somebody who can do it. He has a knife; it’s a charm. He just passes over it.” Well the Erysipelas went; it disappeared. And the guy was just a spiritualist of some kind, who did it. He came to the house and passed a knife over it and the Erysipelas disappeared for a few days.
Satan will allow all of us to appear to have some kind of victory over it. And so that’s why often Satan will allow businesses to prosper. Often he will allow people like Maxwell to prosper. He will allow people to have apparently great prosperity, and to triumph. But all the time he is able to come around the back and to destroy it.
So you cannot destroy Satan; you cannot overcome him. Yet that is the purpose underlying God’s commitment to us to subdue the world. So if we go to it like everybody else; and we try and bring our businesses into order; and we try to make money; and we try to organize our files; and we try to get everything going smoothly; and Satan remains un-dealt with. And we have no means of dealing with him. Then we will eventually end up in the same frustration. However good we may look, and however godly we may appear, and however successful we may seem to be, Satan will always have managed to bring us under his thrall.
He doesn’t need us to look ugly. He doesn’t need us to become murderers. He doesn’t need us to become robbers and killers. He just would like us to look good to the world and appear to be quite virtuous, as long as he is in control of us, and we have no real submission to Christ or to his Father. And so that’s what the whole world of work and business is about, if Satan is not dealt with.
Only one has dealt with him. Only one has dealt with him. And that’s the only one that is able to. It’s in Galatians 6:14, “But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Some of you know from reading Watchman Nee that the Greek word for the world there is “kosmos”. And “kosmos” is not just the physical world, and it’s not just the sphere here on this earth. It is the whole spiritual world that has been organized by Satan. It is the whole organization of spiritual powers of darkness, that has been organized against God, to enable men and women to live in the world, without dying and with apparent success — but independent of God. So the “kosmos” is that whole spiritual organization of powers in the world, that enable you to live independent of God, in apparent success.
And God himself, took that whole spiritual organization of heavenly powers and put them into his Son, Christ, and destroyed them there. And those have actually been destroyed. But if you don’t believe that, they will have power over you. If you don’t believe that, they will have power over
you. If you go in, in the morning to the fruit shop and some of the apples have fallen onto the floor, or something has happened to the whole shelving situation that has made it cave in, and the people are beginning even then to gather around the door — or you have a box of apples, and your job is to set them out, and the people are already coming through, it’s later on in the day, and they’re coming in, and here you are with this all disorganized — or you have given somebody the wrong change, and the cash desk has stuck open, and somebody else wants some orange juice over there that you have to make. And if at that moment you just go at it yourself, you may sort it out in some fashion. But you will not have peace in your heart, and it will not be a glory to Christ, and it will not be a glory to his Father.
At that moment if you do not exercise real faith and say, “Lord, I know that you destroyed this “kosmos” in yourself. And boy, I can see it right around me here, this organization of spiritual powers that are creating quite a bit of chaos here. Lord, I know that you have destroyed this in yourself. Thank you, thank you Lord.” And then, certainly then, you go about it. And then you do something physical. I mean, it’s obvious that we are called upon to act. Moses did have to stretch his staff out above the water, but he was very sure that it was not the staff over water that moved the waters back. It was his faith in the fact that God had put those waters into his Son Jesus, and had destroyed them, and rolled them back. The same with us: If you go at it, and you say, “Well, Pastor is right. First of all — okay what’s the first step? Okay, thank God that he has overcome the angelic powers, and the little demons that have thrown the apples all over the floor. Okay, first I do that. Okay that’s done. Now, I go and clean this mess up myself.” If that’s your attitude it doesn’t matter what game you play, God will leave you to it.
But if you really, deep down, deal with this whole issue of work, and you really do come to the conclusion that this is a spiritual victory over the powers of evil, that you’re called to exercise through your faith in what God has done in Jesus, then the life of Jesus, himself, will begin to flow into you, and out of you to the task. And the Savior himself will begin to be able to complete his creation, because that’s what we’re called to do. We’re called to allow Jesus to complete his creation through us.
The other people are not doing that. They know nothing about it. They don’t believe in Jesus. If they do believe in Jesus he’s the one in the church, or he’s the one that died for our sins, but he certainly has no place in me. And he certainly has not designed certain parts of the world — the spiritual powers of wickedness in this world — to be overcome specifically by me, and to be triumphed over by me, or by him in me. They have no feeling of that at all. That is what Christian Corps is about.
Joe doesn’t have to become the best chef in the world. But Christ has planned to live in him and create beauty through him that nobody else will do in exactly the same way. In the world’s eyes it may not be the best food in the world, but it will be the remarkable achievement that Christ has planned to bring about through Joe. The same with each of us. It isn’t important whether Amy ends up running 25 factories or one factory. It isn’t important whether you make billions of dollars or half a million a year. It is important that Jesus is able, through you, to bring about the organization in this world that he has planned. It will be a unique organization that nobody else can create, because nobody else has been made exactly like you. And Jesus will be something through you that he is not through anybody else in the world. But he can only do it if you all are very clear about one thing: that God has already destroyed the power of Satan in this world in his own death on Calvary, and he’s now calling you to go out and act in the light of that.
How are you to act? It’s in Philippians 4:4. Work your head off? Toil? Burn the midnight oil? Be anxious? Strive? Fight? Work hard? Break your back? No. No, it is crazy, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men known your forbearance.” Do you know what forbearance is? Thursday and no sales! You’re supposed to be wringing your hands. All the other reps are wringing their hands right now! You let your forbearance be known to all men. You forebear. Forebear is actually — the Greek word means, you are what is appropriate in the situation. But it means you are what is appropriate in the situation that God has already dealt with in his Son Jesus. You are what is appropriate in the situation that God has already solved. You are what is appropriate among rough ground that has already been made smooth. You are what is appropriate in crooked ways that have already been made straight. “You let your forbearance been known to all men.”
The world says, “Oh no, forbearance means he ought, really, to do this, but you forbear to do it.” No, the Greek word means, “No! You are what is appropriate in the situation.” Your Father has dealt with this situation; he has overcome this. There is nothing in this situation that he is not pleased with. So you let your forbearance be known to all men. Why? Because the Lord is right at hand. The Lord is at hand.
Then it’s as if God knows our little minds, “But there are sometimes, there are sometimes surely when it’s — you have to worry; you have to be anxious. If you’re not anxious nothing will happen.” Look at the next verse. He knows. He knows what we’ll say. Verse six, “Have no anxiety about anything.”
“Yeah well, not about anything — I mean, I do have to pay this bill at the end of the month. And I have no sales, and it’s Thursday. I mean, you have to be anxious.”
“Have no anxiety about anything.”
“Yes, yes, but Lord, you don’t quite understand. I mean, if you were in this practical world the way I am, I have my car payment at the end of the…”
“Have no anxiety about anything.”
“Well, it is right; you’re not just a little boy. You’re not just an inexperienced businessman. You do run the whole operation. And you’ve made it all. And it’s you telling me, ‘Have no anxiety about anything.’” And isn’t it so important to remember that? I mean, if your dad — if your dad told you as a 12 year old, “Have no anxiety about anything.” Well, you remember, “Well now Dad said, ‘Don’t be anxious, I’ve taken care of it.’” We say, “Good! If Dad says that, I know he’s taken care of it.” This is the Father, and the Maker, and the Creator of the whole universe. And he’s saying to us, “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” That’s the way God intends us to do our work. That’s it.
And I am preaching to all of us here. If we’ve got any anxiety, at any time, in the business that we do as Christian Corps, we are aligning ourselves with the people who do not believe that God has crucified the world in Christ. And we are therefore open to all the hordes of evil powers that swamp in upon us. And we will suffer all the same consequences. The first moment we fail to let the peace of Christ rule our hearts, that moment, we have stepped out of the position that God has
given us in his son Jesus. And we are doing work the way the world does work. And we will have the same results.
It’s no use you saying to me, “Oh, so we don’t need to worry if we don’t get this catalog out in time? We don’t need to worry if we don’t get this ad in? We don’t need to worry. We just lie back drink Coca-Cola; eat ice cream all day, and the Lord will take care of it all?” No, obviously not! Obviously not! Obviously, Moses did have to stretch out his staff over the water. Obviously, God calls us to energetic activity. But what we are not able to do, we leave in the Father’s dear hands. We do not fret, and worry, and be anxious about it. And we submit to Jesus, who will, you may be sure, keep you pretty active. If you respond to his Spirit, you’ll be kept pretty active. And you’ll do probably more work than most people. But you’ll do it free from the ‘sweat of your brow’. You will not do it in the ‘sweat of your brow’. That is, you will not do it in the sweat of anxiety, feeling, “If I don’t do it, nobody is going to do it.” You will not do it with a fear of the hounds of debt coming behind you, driving and biting at your heels, and saying, “You won’t be able to pay this, if you don’t do that.” You’ll be free from that.
You’ll be free from that wearing anxiety; that is what makes work so miserable. You will be active. But you will be active without the agony, and the pain of heart that people have, who feel there’s no power but their own to achieve this.
So, God makes it very plain, “I’ve called you to rejoice in life. I’ve called you to rejoice. And again, I say rejoice. And have no anxiety about anything! Not about anything! But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
So, in Corps, God calls us first to exercise clear faith in what God has done in Jesus. And God, in Jesus, has reconciled the world to himself.
Is it ideal that we haven’t this thing done at this time? No. Is it ideal the way this person doesn’t quite fit into this situation the way we thought they would? No. No. But what is sure is, God has reconciled that to himself in Christ Jesus. There is no wisp of hair that has escaped out from under your hat that God does not know about. There is no stray circumstance that isn’t quite perfect, that God does not already know about, and has not already worked into the counsel of his will.
And so even though there may be a 100 things that are not perfect in the business, and a 1000 other things that are not ideal in all the relationships, God is not up there sweating. He is not up there sweating. He is not up there anxious, and worried, and inpatient to get the thing right. The Father has immense patience, has great kindness and tenderness, and absolute confidence that every situation has been enclosed in his son Jesus, and has been reconciled to his own will and will result in his glory. And if he thinks that, then how much more we are to rest in peace about it.
So, there’s no place for anything but joy and peace about the job, about the business, about each other. And that’s what the Father has called us to. And that’s very different from the world. That’s very different from the world. In the world’s way of business there is no peace. There is no peace. Even temporary peace because they made a good sale, or temporary peace because they have a good year in the finances, even that is just a temporary thing. There is no peace. It is continual straining, straining forward. In God’s business there is absolute confidence. The Father has already done all that’s necessary. Our job is to go out and exercise faith and see that manifested here in this present world. He has done the work. Our job is to go out and act in the
light of that. And as we do that, that will be manifested.
So not just faith in the sense that the world thinks of it; not just faith, “I go out and I believe. My job is to stand here and believe.” No, no! You go out and you act in the light of the fact that God has done this. So, you go into the store in the light of the fact that God has already gone before you — has already planned everything and dealt with everything, and your job is to make a confident presentation — not in the light of your great knowledge of the product, not in the light of the great product, but in the light of the fact that God has already arranged this interview in this shop, and has arranged it in such a way that it will glorify him. And you go in in that confidence.
So, we deal with the problem with the EDM [electronic discharge machining] machine, or we deal with the problem with the enamel in the same way. We come to a situation where we haven’t ordered enough enamel; we should have ordered enough enamel. Undoubtedly if we had been listening to Jesus precisely we would have ordered enough enamel. But we haven’t now. And we come to this situation absolutely confident that God knew that. And God has organized that, and has planned things so that the solution will come about. And so we’ll go into the situation with peace and quiet and calm. And we do what is needed, but with peace, and faith, and calmness.
And so the inner heart is always at peace. So the Father’s call is that kind of life. I have no doubt — I mean, I’m sure I’m talking against myself — I have no doubt that whenever strain or stress enters into any of our hearts or our minds, we’re absolutely out of God’s will. And we are throwing ourselves in with the rest of the dear hearts that are around us, who are trying to bring into submission spiritual powers that they cannot touch at all. And they’re trying to do it by changing bricks and mortar. It’s so stupid! They’re trying to do it by fiddling around these physical things. These physical things are only manifestations of an inner harmony or disharmony that is present in the world. And so we throw ourselves into fighting ‘flesh and blood’, when really we’re fighting spiritual powers in heavenly places.
But as soon as we ‘lose our peace’, as we say, as soon as the peace of Christ ceases to rule our hearts, that moment we become part of the problem; and we are no longer part of the solution. We are part of the problem, and we are being absorbed into the chaos of the world.
And if you say to me, “Oh yeah but sometimes it works.” Sure, sure, Satan is in that game; he’s in that business. He wants to make you feel you’re having some success against him. That’s what he wants. He hates it: he doesn’t like absolute murder, and absolute death, and absolute cruelty. He doesn’t like that, because people can then say, “Oh, there’s not something right here.” He likes things that look reasonably successful as long as they’re not too successful. But as soon as we lose our peace, either in a store situation or in the finances, that second, when you look at your checkbook, that second –it’s usually just a half second — you look at your checkbook and it isn’t what you thought it was. That second that you operate as if there’s no God — you know that second, when your heart might just beat a little harder, but certainly the adrenaline goes through you, and you can almost feel the blood diffusing in your cheeks, that second you align yourself with the power of the beaten world. It’s at that second that Jesus is looking up to his Father saying, “Father, thank you that you’ve dealt with this.” It’s at that moment that the glory comes to Jesus or pain and misery comes to you.
There’s no doubt, God wants none of such seconds. He wants no half seconds like that. No half seconds of unbelief. No half seconds of irritability with somebody else. No half seconds of
impatience with somebody. He wants, as a friend of mine says, “Steady Eddy” — wants it like that all the time. Absolute peace! That’s what Jesus does. That’s the way he lives. That’s what he’s called us to. That’s what the world does not have.
Let us pray. Father, we get used to the low level of life that is around us. And before we know it, it is touching us also. So we get used to strain and stress; we get used to anxiety and worry; we get used to panicked tones in our voices to each other. We get used to sudden sharp commands….